New York Times metro reporter Greg Howard's profile of Al Sharpton, the racially inflammatory activist and MSNBC host, will run in Sunday’s edition. As is Times’ custom, Howard skipped over several bigoted incidents connected to Sharpton. The headline betrayed the paper’s pathetic attempt at positioning Sharpton for posterity: “Al Sharpton, Reconsidered -- Mr. Sharpton has been called a race hustler, a hero, a buffoon, a freedom fighter. He would prefer to be remembered as the Martin Luther King of the North.”
Ironically, the article contains no actual reconsideration of Sharpton – Howard fawned over Sharpton just as much as all the other Times’ reporters who have written about him.
The Times in the past has called Sharpton a “civil rights leader,” while ignoring his calling Jews "diamond merchants" during the racial disturbance in Crown Heights. In Harlem in 1995, Sharpton cursed the white Jewish owner of Freddy's Fashion Mart as a "white interloper" in a protest that escalated when a protester entered the store, shot four employees and set the building on fire, killing seven employees:
Folded into a far corner of the Grand Havana Room, a private Midtown cigar club on the penthouse floor of 666 Fifth Avenue, Mr. Sharpton looked downright stately....
There, Sharpton was improbably greeted by a well-wisher who just happened to have been one of the people imprisoned with Sharpton in Puerto Rico after a 2001 protest against the Navy. The reporter repented of his brief doubt of Sharpton’s integrity.
I later realized this is how millions of Americans view Mr. Sharpton. Coincidences come off as chicanery, and even his greatest achievements done with the best intentions seem somehow nefarious.
But don’t count on Howard to explain why people don’t trust Sharpton. Howard treated the Sharpto-aided hoax (which threatened to put innocent men in prison) as an unfortunate blemish on a brave record of civil rights activism:
Mr. Sharpton has doggedly agitated for social justice for over 50 years, organizing, marching and fighting for black people. The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown have fueled the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Their cases are in the mainstream partly because their families picked up the phone and called Mr. Sharpton.
But these aren’t the things that readily come to mind when people, particularly white people, think of him. He is known best for the worst thing he’s done: His loud support of Tawana Brawley, an African-American teenager whose claims of abuse and rape by a gang of white men turned out to be a hoax.
In November 1987, a 15-year-old black girl who had been missing for four days was found in a trash bag near her family’s old apartment building in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. Feces were smeared in her hair, and racist epithets were written with charcoal on her body. She said she’d been kidnapped, tortured and raped by a group of six white men and left for dead. Her name was Tawana Brawley.
Many New Yorkers felt more comfortable seeing Mr. Sharpton as a buffoon or a race-baiter. The Brawley case cemented it. And for many, he will never escape.
“‘Sharpton’s a demagogue,’” he said, mocking critics. “Whatever. Is stop and frisk here? No. At the end of the day, when it’s all over, people will not care about my hairstyle or my old tracksuit. They will say, ‘He did this, this, this, and this.’”
He simply needs to not lose ground under the current administration.